Tatted up


Have you been inked? Indelibly marked? Tatted up?

Perhaps you have one. Perhaps more. Made visible to others or kept discreet. Marking a fond memory, a loss; a person or favourite pet. Or done in deference to cultural or religious beliefs.

I find tattoos a beautiful form of self-expression. Some are a more beautiful form than others but it’s all about personal taste.

Ever wonder who gets tattoos?

I did some Googling and, according to a study* conducted by Harris Interactive in 2008, an estimated 14% of all adults in the United States (US)  have a tattoo, just slightly down from 2003, when 16% had a tattoo.

I wish I could find some more recent data, not to mention Canadian data, but no such luck.

Of the US population with tattoos, the breakdown by age group is as follows:

  • 9% of 18–24 year-olds
  • 32% of 25-29 year-olds
  • 25% of 30-39 year-olds
  • 12% of 40-49 year-olds
  • 8% of 50-64 year-olds

Oh, and men are slightly more likely to have a tattoo than women (15% versus 13%).

The study also indicates that just under half of adults without a tattoo find those of us who are inked less attractive. But who cares?

It’s an addictive art form

I have a few tattoos. One on my right foot, another centred just above my shoulder blades and then a larger piece running up the right side of my back. This larger piece also covers a smaller tattoo on my lower back.


Lady Battikah photo by Frank Kovalchek and used under Creative Commons License
Photo of Lady Battikah by Frank Kovalchek


I got that one covered because, while that was my first tattoo, it didn’t hold a lot of meaning for me. I literally picked the design off the wall in the shop.

All my other tattoos mark a milestone, a special memory. If I’m going to wear a design permanently, it should hold some meaning.

Sure it hurts, especially depending on where you have your tattoo placed, but the result is so worth it. A custom piece of art designed for you by an artist. Art you get to carry with you everywhere you go.

I’m not done with the art form, but it gets expensive. I waited two years before getting the back piece, partly to be sure of the design I wanted but also to save the money for it.


Here’s a weird fact reported in August of this year on the New York Times’ Freakonomics blog:

David B. Wiseman, a psychologist, showed 128 undergraduate students photographs of tattooed and non-tattooed female models, described as “college instructors.” He found that college students prefer tattoos: “Analyses indicated that the presence of tattoos was associated with some positive changes in ratings: students’ motivation, being imaginative about assignments, and how likely students were to recommend her as an instructor.”

Interesting, right?

Many employers still look at anyone with tattoos as an undesirable, or a troublemaker. Which is really funny to me because I know a lot of people with tattoos and they are just regular folk. Yet professionally, I think there is still the perception that tattoos can be career limiting depending on where they are placed and how large, obnoxious and in-your-face they are.

I expect this will change over time. I certainly hope so anyway.


* source: Harris Interactive, Three in ten Americans with a tattoo say having one makes them feel sexier or more artsy.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Alaskan Dude (aka Frank Kovalchek).

6 Responses to “Tatted up”

  1. Laura

    I definitely think the perception of tats at work is changing, just as it is for piercings. When I applied for my first govvie job I had a nose ring and purple hair; a friend teased me to at least put my hair back to brown. Now that seems like the norm. 🙂

    Fun post. Thanks for sharing Mel.

  2. Mel Gallant

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for commenting. I think (hope) the perceptions are changing but funny thing. I have had several people caution me not to get a tattoo on the inside of my wrist b/c professionally, it will be career-limiting. You can hide a tattoo on your foot and even on your arms (if you wear long sleeves) but a wrist is harder to cover.

    Now why would anyone assume I would want to cover it? 😉

  3. spydergrrl

    I got a large-ish forearm tattoo this summer at the age of 35. It took me since my early 20s, when I first started thinking about it, to finally decide on placement, style, size, etc.

    My final design is very meaningful to me, and the placement ensures that I get to see it each and every day. I can still hide it when I’m in relatively conservative company, but it’s quickly become part of my identity, my brand.

    Hubby and I noticed that a really high percentage of parents at the splash pad in our ‘burb this summer had visible tats. It’s definitely becoming more mainstream among folks in our generation. And as they assume more senior level roles at work, anti-tattoo bias/ discrimination will hopefully decrease sharply.

    Great piece!

  4. melgallant

    hey Tanya,

    Thanks for sharing your own tattoo story. I think they are so beautiful. And I like what you say about yours becoming a part of your identity, your brand.

    When it comes to tattoos and the workplace, I’m of the mind, “who cares?” Don’t you want people working for you who aren’t afraid to show their individualism?

    I have an idea for my next one but like you, I need some time to think on size, style, placement, etc. Oh and save the pennies for it too! 😉

  5. Roz

    I’d be interested to see some stats on the demographics of people with tattoos, (beyond just age and gender) such as education and income levels etc. and perhaps compared against the number of tattos a person has and if they are visible or not. I wonder if that data is available…

    • Mel Gallant

      Hi Roz,

      Me too! I did all sorts of Googling and although people are writing about this topic, the same statistical sources kept coming up in their articles. One from Pew Research done back in 2003 and then the one from Harris Interactive that I mention above. I’m surprised by this.

      But if anyone finds more recent data, I’d love to know about it!

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